Tuesday, June 10th, I attended my fourth Kelly Cares Football 101 event. This was the fifth year for the women’s only clinic which combines a hands-on Notre Dame football experience with a good cause. Proceeds from the event go toward breast cancer education and awareness, one of many causes the Kelly Cares Foundation supports, and one that is near and dear to the Kelly family as Paqui Kelly, wife of head coach Brian Kelly, is a two time breast cancer survivor.
I’ve had many questions over the years regarding this event and why I choose to attend year after year. My attendance seems almost obligatory in my mind. Notre Dame football is one of my biggest passions and if I can enjoy a night on Notre Dame’s campus mingling with other female fans and being taught a few football pointers from the coaches and players themselves, I have to attend (even if it means missing a day of class…shhhh). The event itself takes a bit more explaining.
The event can be broken down into 3 segments including the check-in/cocktail hour (attendees must be 21 years or older), the classroom/on field activities, and last, but definitely not least, the ever anticipated video and fashion show (let’s just say what happens at the Football 101 fashion show stays at the Football 101 fashion show, in fact no pictures allowed!)
Segment 1: Upon check-in each woman receives a lanyard and tag printed with a group name (the 600 participants break into smaller groups and rotate through stations), a tote bag with goodies donated by various sponsors, and that year’s Football 101 jersey. Usually there is one identical jersey for each participant (the first year was a light pink jersey with a white number 1 to signify the first year, the second year had a different color scheme and a number 2 and so on), however this year was a bit different. Instead of a pink jersey with green or white accents, participants got to choose from a selection of white, navy, or red authentic Adidas practice jerseys. Pretty cool, huh?!
The check-in and cocktail hour have been held in different locations over the years. My personal favorite venue was last year’s when all 600 participants were invited to go onto the field of Notre Dame stadium and also into the storied locker room to see the even more storied “Play Like a Champion Today”, sign. I did end up, reluctantly, washing my hands, but can you say awesome!? (I may have also laid on the field…) The cocktail hour has also been held at the LaBar practice field and for the first time this year, due to inclement weather, inside the Guglielmino Athletics Complex. Regardless of location, the cocktail hour is a perfect opportunity to chat with other women or rub elbows with some of the Notre Dame football coaches, all of whom are more than happy to take pictures, sign autographs, or talk football. This segment also features food from local restaurants which is not only delicious, but also necessary fuel for the evening’s activities.
Segment 2: After loading up on mini prime rib sandwiches, pizza, pretzel sticks, chocolate truffles, and smoothies, its time for the real fun to start. The entire group is brought together for a short pep talk, group picture, and to break into their groups. Each smaller group, all named after something Notre Dame related (Holtz, cheerleaders, leprechaun, etc.), then rotates through various stations which include, but are not limited to, classroom sessions with various assistant coaches, visits to the weight room, nutrition discussions, player panels, and on field drills. Kelly Cares has done a great job mixing things up over the years to keep the event fresh. Each year there are new opportunities, the drills are a little different, and the coaches cover different topics. I’ve heard a defensive pep talk from Bob Diaco, caught passes from Tommy Rees, thrown to Michael Floyd, watched the video Notre Dame shows its potential recruits, and even seen the famous
Trick Shot Monday locker room. The players look forward to this event just as much as the women do and they are always willing to pose for pictures and have a good time. My favorite moment from this year’s event would have to be Malik Zaire and Everett Golson taking the time to help me perfect my spiral (evidently 16th time is the charm…I blame nerves).
Segment 3: The end of the night is by far the most anticipated by those who know what to expect. A fashion show serves as a finale to the night, but it isn’t your ordinary fashion show. Notre Dame players strut their stuff in various Notre Dame football gear ranging from travel outfits to their home game uniforms. So? What’s the big deal? Well, as I mentioned earlier, what happens at the fashion show stays at the fashion show, but let’s just say the players have moves you’ve never seen and most of the clothes end up in the audience. Now do you understand why it’s a fan favorite? (This year I noticed women were reserving seats close to the front by placing their totes bags on the chairs…I followed their lead and ended up with a prime front row seat)
Honestly, I can’t recommend this event enough. Even though the next morning I have muscle aches in muscles I didn’t know existed (the coaches won’t go easy on you ladies), it’s something I look forward to each and every year and it keeps me talking for days. To learn more about the Kelly Cares Foundation including its mission and the various events it hosts throughout the year, be sure to visit their website: http://kellycaresfoundation.org